Mindful walking
Mindful walking

At this time of year you hear a lot about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), low moods, the anticipation of Christmas and the positives and negatives that the festive season can bring. It’s a time of expectation and that can weigh heavy on our shoulders as well as our minds.

We are expected:

  • to be happy
  • to spend more than we can afford,
  • to put on brave face and be happy for our family and friends

I’ll ask clients, ‘Where is the expectation coming from?’ It can often be a stumper of a question if you’ve never thought about the source of these expectations- it often lies within; we expect so much of ourselves that it can be hard to live up to these expectations. There will inevitably be outside pressures and expectations too, we all have friends and family who put upon us or who also hold high expectations.

Here I come back to the season; it’s Autumn right now and a time of transformations. Some might argue it’s a period of dying, rotting and decay. Others can see the changing colours of the leaves, the shedding of the leaves as making way for the new, and admiring the beauty of change. If we consider both views for a moment- if you hold the first view- would you say you don’t take to change easily? You like to hold on to what you know even if it’s slipping away?

The second view- do you embrace change? Do you go with the flow, do you like spotting the changes and your reactions to them?

Autumn is the perfect time to grab your coat, gloves and scarf and wander to your nearest woodland. I was lucky enough to experience ‘mindful walking’ a few weeks ago with a fantastic group of like-minded folk. At first, I was a bit sceptical- I like walking, I like the colours of the leaves and admire the beauty of nature but I kept thinking- how will this be mindful? How will I be able to calm my busy mind staring at trees? …I wonder if you’re thinking this too?!

We were asked to follow our feet with no particular direction and look at a patch of woodland for about ten minutes- again my sceptical devil appeared on my shoulder screaming ‘What is this all about?!’ I found a tree with lots of interwoven ivy tracing the surface of the bark, using it for support but clearly leaching its resources too. I found a spider spinning its web, I found twigs arranged in a wigwam fashion and this was unexpected- I thought about who had made it and what had been their motivation. We came back and reported on what we’d found. Everyone commented on something different and they all found a calmness and beauty in what they had seen in the same woodland, even me. Other tasks were given but the one that stands out was being asked to find a part of the woodland we could identify with; I wandered, unsure of how I could make a meaningful metaphor out of trees but I found just that:

An established tree with new shoots, half eaten leaves, plagued by caterpillars at some point but new leaves were sprouting and the tree continued to grow. Now bare with me but here goes:

I’m established as me, as a person, as my many life roles (the tree trunk, the core), but counselling has taken time and dedication, trial and error, effort, heaps of motivation and ambition (the new leaves trying to survive), and a tenacity to make it through (to outlive the caterpillars’ immense appetite to eat and destroy). There have been many obstacles/ caterpillars but changing and progressing felt innate and felt worthwhile. I had to force a change to get to where I needed to be. To feel better.

I don’t usually do very well with nature in an experiential way- I look at the colours out on my hikes and the shapes and shadows but I usually get caught up in my thoughts and the processing of them- I forget to look up and around. I’m usually looking down or intently focused on what’s in front of me. Being in the woodland for the hour/ hour and half taught me and reminded me that life is all around and not just ahead of us. It taught me to be more present, more observant and aware that so much is going on around us. It’s very easy to stay in your mind, your worries and resent change, because it takes time and effort and drains us. Go to a woodland, a park or a hill, watch the changes going on in the environment right now in this colourful season. You might be surprised how connected and engaged you feel just by going outside and observing. Soak up the season rather than resenting the summer’s passing; watch how amazing changes can be.

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

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